Silent victims of gender-based violence

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VICTIMS are accused of having caused their own misfortune. The very core of their humanity has been violated and Zimbabwe’s highly conservative family system means the majority of cases are literally swept under the carpet.

The reason for not reporting is that it will result in a breakdown of the family unit so vital in the very fabric of our society.

Despite the outrage at violence against women that has been recorded in Zimbabwe over the years, thousands of women continue to be silent victims of one kind of abuse or another.

But the biggest of them is rape, to the abuse of children as young as two weeks in the vain hope of curing the dreaded HIV and Aids scourge.

After years of decline suddenly official figures show a spike in the prevalence of HIV and Aids infections — a worrying sign.

Women bear the brunt of abuse while vulnerable girls are left with physical and emotional wounds invisible to the eye.

They suffer in silence. For a long time now, Natasha Moyo (31) a mother of three has been subjected to unspeakable trauma in her matrimonial home.

Her life and that of her children is under threat from her violent husband who arrives home late from beer jaunts.

On a daily basis, Moyo prepares herself to walks three kilometres to the safety of her brother’s house if she fails to prepare the day’s evening meal in the way her husband desires. Failure means a heavy bashing. This is despite the fact that the husband does not buy food in the house.

“He always beats me up when he comes home to an uncooked meal. What worries me is that if he finds boiled vegetables, he hits me and demands meat that he rarely buys,” suggesting that she is to blame.

The couple’s landlord who has witnessed Moyo’s fate says her efforts to help Moyo have been futile owing to her relatives’ insistence that they cannot report their son-in-law to the police.

Moyo says that her husband is the supposed breadwinner and that she currently does not have money to enable her to provide for the welfare of her children.

With the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence underway, Moyo’s case is not an isolated one as many women have chosen to protect their husbands from going to prison despite enduring various forms of domestic violence.

The campaign seeks to mobilise individuals and groups across the globe to call for an end to all forms of violence against women and to emphasise that violence against women is a violation of human rights.

In marking the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, critics have claimed the idea of blaming the victim for their misfortune is so prevalent something needs to be done.

Harare West legislator and MDC-T shadow Justice minister Jessie Majome said government needed to act and stop working on blueprints.

“The government and stakeholders need to move from boardrooms and start implementing the National Strategy against Gender-Based Violence launched at last year’s 16 Days. Its four (4) key result areas are service provision to survivors, protection, research and monitoring and evaluation, accompanied by vigorous advocacy and sensitisation on it that also aims at ending impunity for perpetrators,” Majome said.

Tinopona Mabvunde (28) a resident of Harare says it has become common for crimes against humanity to be blamed on the victims, pointing out that women are often presented as the cause of their own undoing.

“In many rape cases, rape survivors are blamed ruthlessly for the violence perpetrated against them. It’s time people stopped justifying violence by blaming women. We demand justice,” Mabvunde said.

Nyari Mashayamombe, a girl child activist, has advocated that no excuses can be used to justify violence against women and children.

According to UN Women Africa, violence against women has reached a crisis point that demands action from everyone.

World leaders are showing determination and mounting response that is proportionate to the violence threatening the lives of women and girls.

While people quarrel in the media and in other forums, the silent victims of violence continue to wallow in their misery.

Mateline Tsama is a third year student doing journalism and media studies at the National University of Science and Technology